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Tanzania 2014 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jabiri Kuwe Bakari, CEO of the e-Government Agency, on developing more effective government procedures through the use of new technology.

Jabiri Kuwe Bakari
BIOGRAPHY
Jabiri Kuwe Bakari is the CEO of the e-Government Agency. He previously lectured at the Faculty of Science and Environmental Studies of the Open University of Tanzania, and was Director of the Institute of Educational Technologies from 2007 to 2012, having worked with the University of Dar es Salaam Computing Center for over 10 years. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Dar es Salaam and his Master’s degree in Data Communication from the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Sheffield University. He launched his career as a Systems Analyst and Programmer at the University of Dar es Salaam in 1996. He received his Doctorate in Computer and Systems Sciences from Stockholm University in 2007.

What role does the e-Government Agency play in Tanzania?

The e-Government Agency (eGA) is a semi-autonomous institution established under the President Office's of Public Services Management. It effectively became operational on April 1, 2012 with the mandate for the coordination, oversight, and provision of e-government initiatives and the enforcement of e-government standards for public institutions. We are there to ensure that the use of ICT enhances the delivery of public services in terms of improving service quality, broadening service availability, and innovating new types of services. We want to see the improved efficiency of government business processes that will enhance public service delivery. Ours is a newly established agency and I am its first CEO; I assumed the role in 2012. My first real task was to develop a strategic plan, within which we have six areas of attention. The first involves enhancing the capacity of public institutions to implement e-government initiatives wherein we are going to play a central role. We have to improve the capacity of ICT management within those departments, such that they can effectively manage, control and maintain ICT in their domains. We also want to facilitate efficient management of ICT within the government to foster a good relationship between the agency and other government departments. The second area concerns the improvement of public access to e-services. The opportunity of extending public services electronically and in particular by mobile phone will be achieved following the electronic enhancement of government business processes. We have placed a special focus on the mobile phone because the majority of Tanzanians don't have computers and live in rural areas. However, more than 26 million people now have access to mobile phones, and we think we can start with very basic public services in this manner. For example, if you go to a rural medicine dispensary and happen to receive poor services, then it should be possible for you to lodge a complaint—even from your mobile. As a citizen, you should be able to inform the government of the availability of medicine, problems related to education, water availability, and other services from your mobile phone. Integrity is our number one core value and innovation is the second. We want to be innovative such that we can make use of technology to extend services to citizens. We also want to make information on public services and possible online services available. We want to deliver basic information by text, which is made possible by mobile phones. The other area is the management of shared resources. When I began my tenure, there had been many silo-based initiatives; we had islands of information systems, but the systems did not talk to each other and there were many idle resources. We want to harmonize all of the systems and make them share the available resources wherever possible. Someone may have a mini-data center or a large server room, but they only use 1% of the capacity; within five years, most of the systems and hardware have reached the end of their lifespans and need replacement.

How receptive are the government agencies to your goals?

Most of the public institutions have accepted eGA's goals positively, because these goals aim to provide services to public institutions by harmonizing shared public infrastructure, developing applications, implementing frameworks, and providing consultancy, advice, and technical support. We believe that through the enforcement of government ICT initiatives, public institutions will be able to increase their capacity to provide services to citizens (G2C), business communities (G2B), and employees (G2E), effectively. The institutions believe that eGA is there to solve e-government related problems, thereby saving government cost and time.